How To Negotiate Issues After A Home Inspection

Real Estate Home Inspection Negotiations

How To Negotiate A Home InspectionA home is never truly bought or sold until the money has exchanged hands. You may have received an offer on your house and be fairly certain that you have a buyer, but there are several other steps you must go through before the sale is final – one of which is the home inspection. Unless your home is flawless – which few ever are – you are probably in for some negotiations with the buyer before you see the end of your sale. The last thing you as a seller want to go through is  protracted home inspection negotiations! I know as a Realtor one of my least favorite parts of a real estate transaction is negotiating any necessary home inspection problems that have surfaced. Unfortunately however it is an inevitable part of our job.

So what is the best way of going about negotiating home inspection issues?

First of all, you should be clear on the realities of selling a home. No home is perfect, and an honest inspector is very likely to find some existing issues with your home. This is normal. How you handle the negotiations that follow, though, can make a big difference on how much you give on your end and the level of stress you experience from the process.

This is in fact one of the reasons I like to council all of my clients on how to prepare for a home inspection. Taking care of the issues you know about will go a long way in making sure your transaction stays on track. When you do this you don’t need to know how to negotiate home inspection issues!

Working as a Realtor for the past two decades one of my biggest pet peeves is dealing with those buyers who intentionally use a home inspection as an opportunity to re-negotiate the transaction. Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of times when a buyer is justified in asking a seller to make repairs for unsatisfactory conditions to major systems like the electrical, plumbing, roof and foundation.

A buyer however that expects a home to be delivered like it is new construction is not getting good guidance from their buyer’s agent. You would not believe how often I get a punch list after a home inspection for some of the most benign things. The purpose of a home inspection is to find major defects that would cause a buyer not to want to move forward with the transaction or at the very least have these items repaired.

A Buyer who is under the false pretense that a home inspection is for the purpose of creating a long punch list that will be remedied by the seller is setting themselves up for a contentious sale. Most sellers are smart enough to realize if they have been through this before that a home inspection is not the buyers opportunity to change the agreed upon contract terms.

If major problems are discovered that should be fixed then that is a different story. That is the real purpose of a home inspection.

When buyers start to over step their bounds is often times when real estate transactions go sour. Buying and selling a home is all about being reasonable. Sometimes buyers will ask for repairs of items that were clearly visible before an offer has even been made.

When I am representing a buyer I will always advise them not to ask for repairs of items they knew about before writing a contract. If they feel there is something that needs to be addressed monetarily they should do it in the offer and be upfront about it.  A perfect example would be seeing a crack in a tile or even a seller pointing it out in a disclosure statement and then asking the seller to fix it after a home inspection.

If you want to get someones back up this is the perfect way of doing it.

Push For Inspection Credits Instead of Repairs

Negotiating Home Inspection Issues

When selling your home and subsequently negotiating home inspection items, you should always push for a closing cost credit or a price reduction whenever possible. Negotiating home inspection issues is sometimes not that easy but this is what you should be shooting for as a seller.

There is simply too much stress and uncertainty in putting yourself on the line for repair work if you can avoid it. The buyer is likely to be extremely picky about the quality of the work and you could wind up being asked for even more work if he or she is unhappy.

This is why most Realtors will recommend you offer the cash value of the repairs – negotiated down as much as possible – instead of offering to do the repairs yourself.

It is easy to see how you can get into trouble here. Say the roof over your garage has hail damage that the buyer demands be fixed. You agree that repairs need to be made and offer to have them done before the closing takes place. Two things happen: First, the repairs take longer than you thought and potentially end up delaying the closing if the buyer or their attorney will not agree to an escrow hold back. Second, the roof shingles are newer, so they do not look the same as the old shingles.

The buyer should understand this, but chooses not to, and demands you do something about it. Again in the second example the buyer could attempt to delay the closing creating stress for you especially if you have bought another home and you need to close on your home in order to purchase.

You probably would not be liable for any further costs in this particular situation, but you also just put yourself through weeks of anxiety and ended up with an angry buyer, all of which could have been avoided by just handing over the estimated cost of repair in cash or credit on the sale. The buyer picks his contractor and deals with the consequences while you move on.

Negotiating Home Inspection Problems

Negotiate Home Inspection ItemsIn most states you are not obligated to repair your home before you sell it, as long as you are upfront and honest through the course of the sale. However, you also want to sell the house to a buyer that is willing to pay what you want.

You must be willing to negotiate in most any type of market and repairs are one area where this is a must. The buyer can back out in all sorts of ways, leaving you searching for another to take the home off of your hands. Depending on the market, this can be a real serious headache.

One of the difficulties with going through the home inspection process and then not coming to terms with a buyer is the fact you and your Realtor may have to disclose everything that was discovered at the inspection. In many states this a disclosure requirement moving forward. This of course can make your home more difficult to sell.

This being said, just because you must negotiate and maybe spend a little money to ultimately sell, you do not need to give in to every demand. Haggling is an art anyone can learn, and you should have a Realtor with you to help in the process as well. Know the value of what you are trading and look out for your bottom line. This is another one of those times where having an exceptional real estate agent in your corner really comes in handy.

In practical terms, this means focusing on what is best for you. There may be 20 things that could possibly need repairing, some big, some small. You do not have to take care of all of them, but you may need to take care of some. For instance, the buyer may come to you with a list like this:

  • Cracked tiles in bathroom
  • Sod replacement in corner of yard
  • Fence repair in backyard
  • Leaking pipe in basement
  • HVAC system replacement
  • Old above ground swimming pool removal

Most of these problems could be accomplished by a contractor or two for small amounts of money, except for the HVAC replacement. This is where you have to decide your strategy. Which will cost you less? Which things are you willing to do? In this particular situation, you may really want to avoid replacing the HVAC system. It will be expensive, the old one still has a few more years left in it, and you do not really feel like you should be responsible for it.

If this is the case, offer to do all the other smaller repairs on the list. You can even explain that the old HVAC is a result of buying the older home you are selling and that the price reflects this. Make it understood that you are willing to do a lot, but there is only so much they can reasonably ask. Appearing reasonable and acting in good faith can ease your way through these negotiations.

Real Estate Sales NegotiationsThe same is true for the actual repair costs. Make relatively low offers based on your estimates. You can always give a little to come nearer the middle, but you cannot go back down after you make an offer. This is just like haggling for a car or even a piece of fruit at the farmer’s market.

One of the best ways to avoid your home sale going sour is to know what the most common home inspection issues are and deal with them before you even put the home up for sale. Over the years I have come to realize that many home owners get so comfortable with their environment they never stop to take a hard look around to see if they have any problems that are sure to crop up. Doing a once over of your property before putting it on the market can really make a difference!

Do Your Best And Trust Your Realtor

Depending on the state of your home, you may not be able to get every last penny you hoped. However, selling for a good price is worth spending a little money. Trust your Realtor to guide your choices and do your best to negotiate the home inspection issues with skill, and you should be able to sell without spending more than is reasonable.

Remember that navigating your way through the home inspection process is important. Don’t become stubborn and refuse to take care of issues that are sure to come up again with a different set of buyers. It is important to recognize problems that will be issues with anyone and deal with them. Unless it is an incredibly strong sellers market where you can get away with telling a buyer they need to take the home “as is” then make sure you are reasonable. Doing so will lead to a smile on your face when you are shaking hands with a buyer at the closing table.


About the author: The above Real Estate information on how to negotiate issues after a real estate home inspection was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 27+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service Real Estate sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Northborough, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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  1. says

    Bill, Just participated in a home inspection with someone who moved into new home last September & because the builder has fixed most of his closing punchlist, he’s now finding every little fault with the house. It’s hard for new homeowners to learn that they assume ownership for most small problems, until they’re big enough for insurance (or the builder) to take over.

  2. says

    I agree 100%. As a full time home inspector i have seen it all and cannot stress enough the importance of taking care of all those nagging little home repairs before the inspection. Change the light bulbs, clean the gutters, have the furnace cleaned and serviced. When I inspect a home there are clearly two types the ones that have been maintained and those that have not. The well maintained homes age gracefully the ones that are not maintained tend to become a house of horrors. I know that your clients want to sell and most can not be convinced to invest money in last minute repairs of things ‘they have lived with just fine’ all these years, but unless they want to be caught in last minute re-negotiations its money well spent

  3. says

    Tina – that is where a good agent needs to step in and either educate the buyer or seller what should be expected from the home inspection.

    Alan – In my twenty seven years in the business I have met some really great home inspectors. Those that are good at their craft will point out exactly what you have mentioned. It makes sense if you want to get top dollar for your home you should treat it with respect and care. There are times where a seller could just invest a small amount of money and it would make all the difference in the world!

  4. says

    This article is well written with solid advice. As a past builder and real estate developer I couldn’t agree more that sellers should stick to their guns more when asked for the buyer’s wish list of items they want repaired.
    Home inspections should not be viewed as a fix all of this or I won’t buy it scenario. 90% of the items I’ve seen on home inspections are cosmetic or recommend, not critical.

    Buyers can easily confuse new homes with existing homes, assuming that everything that makes the list must be repaired. Honestly, I think sellers are usually astonished at all the things that buyers ask to be repaired and it usually delays the closing process because they just don’t know what to say or do about it. The best negotiations I’ve seen are the ones where the seller is up-front and honest right away and agrees on a financial credit instead of trying to fix all the problems.

    • says

      Thanks Rich. Often times I think both buyers and sellers don’t get great guidance. Expectations become unrealistic and there is nobody there to say “hey be a little more reasonable here and we will get this done.” Then there are buyers who just want a perfect house and don’t understand it is not the seller’s responsibility to deliver that. In my mind the home inspection and subsequent negotiation are one of the least desirable parts of a real estate transaction.

  5. says

    To continue your point on credit vs. seller repairs, the credit is usually going to be in the buyer’s best interest, as well. As a buyer, you are going to be living in this house for the next X years. The seller is gone at the closing. Who do you think has more interest in making sure the repairs are done properly? If you take the credit, you can have it done the way you want, by a contractor you hired. I would always recommend buyers take the credit, even if you think it may cost you a bit more than the amount of the credit to do the repairs.

    • says

      Brian in most circumstances I would be in your camp on that thinking as well. There are some sellers who will take the cheapest way out when fixing things in the home.

    • says

      Thanks Neema I appreciate the compliments. The home inspection is a very important part of a real estate transaction. In fact if there is going to be something that will cause a transaction from not happening more often than not it is the home inspection.

    • says

      Thanks Jamie I appreciate the comps on the article. The home inspection is a very stressful point in the transaction for both buyers and sellers. It makes sense for both parties to have expectations that make sense. The respective Realtors working with their clients should be guides to making it a win-win.

  6. says

    Thanks for sharing Bill! This article has some great information and I am going to share with not only my seller and buyers but other agents in my office. I think new agents can really learn from your article!

    • says

      Lou Ann I am glad you enjoyed the article. A home inspection is a big hurdle in a real estate transaction. Realtors should be well versed when working with either a buyer or seller in how to deal with home inspection issues.

  7. says

    Bill this is a great article!
    As an inspector I don’t nitpick but I do look at the house from an inspectors point of view. It is not the inspectors fault that the home has problems, we are there to find them. So many realtors call us the deal breaker and this article shows how the realtor is very often the deal breaker from not knowing his or her craft. A lot of them always blame the home inspector is what I see, then tension and anger is misplaced toward the home inspector…


    • says

      Mr Banks – All home inspectors should find every defect there is with a home after all that is your job. I will say however that some inspectors know how to communicate issues better that others and that is a skill that makes one home inspector better than another. I have come across inspectors that can make a buyer feel very uneasy about common home issues. In fact to the point where they decide not to purchase the house. I don’t expect a home inspector to be a psychologist but want them to have at least some understanding of how to make a buyer not want to terminate a sale when that is the last thing they should do. As mentioned this is also where a skilled real estate agent can jump in.

  8. says

    Thanks for such a comprehensive run down of the home inspection. I’ll agree with you that the Home Inspection is my least favorite part of a transaction. Personally, I stay away from representing folks with homes that I know are loaded with issues if they are blind to them and unrealistic. I get surprised over and over again at the number of people out there that have no clue how to maintain a home.

    • says

      Pam without a doubt as real estate agents we get to see wide differences in how people treat their property. Like you it amazes me how some people let their largest asset go without giving it a second thought. The segment of the population that knows how to prepare for a home inspection and carefully takes the time to rectify issues always comes out ahead in the long run.

  9. Lennyb724 says

    I’m in escrow on a home in an area of the San Fernando Valley that we like and on a lot size and configuration that suits our needs. However, the home was build in 1957 and where some of the more cosmetic things have been handled there are issues that were glaring during inspection:

    Here are my non-negotiable items:

    1) Foundation (damaged during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake) Repair cost to be estimated next week.
    2) Asbestos removal $2500
    3) Termite Tenting and repair $3500
    4) House electrical panel out-dated, overloaded. Needs to be brought over to the main panel $2500
    5) Chimney cracked and in need of full replacement (also damaged in the quake) $14,000
    6) Roof replacement on flat overhangs $2500.

    So, depending on the cost of the foundation repair, we’re already up to $25,000.

    I hope the sellers are ready for the shock. I didn’t even included the pool that needs about $7000 worth of new plaster, coping and tile.

  10. says

    Great post Bill! This is where an experienced Realtor makes a big difference by preparing their client. Even in a hot market a house that come back on the market because of mismanaged home inspection negotiation ends up being at a disadvantage.

  11. Lauren Bodenski says

    What amazes me is that buyers’ (and agents on both sides) seem to assume that a home inspectors’ word is gospel. Let’s face it, they, like everyone else are in CYA mode and list everything possible that might be considered “wrong with the house.”

    Multiple home inspections make it seem like totally different houses. We know, as on our first house (1890s in a Boston neighborhood) we sold, the same home inspection company (two different inspectors) did two inspections (one we did in advance of listing) and one the buyers’ paid for. They were completely different findings – could have been two entirely different buildings.

    What is the requirement for older houses, as home inspectors work with current code? Perhaps you might address sellers’ rights during the sales process. There seem to be very few of those.

    Home inspectors are often just wrong and there is no recourse for sellers to correct misinformation.

    • says

      Lauren I would agree with much of what you have said. Like any industry there are good and bad inspectors. Having been in the business for almost thirty years, I have seen both ends of the spectrum. You are correct there are times when an inspector is just plain wrong!

      Nobody should ever take an inspectors findings as gospel and that is a great reason why a respective agent representing their client should be there.

  12. Dennis says

    Great article. I am in the process of selling my home now. The house inspection is tomorrow and I am hoping for the best. The buyer is actually the buyer agent and who is buying for their daughter. The house is older (1918) but in great shape from what I can tell. I am really hoping the buyer does not get the inspection back and want all the cosmetic stuff repaired. I am hoping that being a Realtor they use your advise and not want that brand new home for their daughter. This whole process is very stressful.

  13. Leslie Sierra says

    Having bought and sold many of my own personal houses…(bought 16)…

    This is the time to make a financial investment. WILL the house be “worth” the price, in two much will I have in equity? If I LOVE LOVE LOVE it, or it is a DEAL DEAL DEAL< I can get the minor things repaired. IF major repairs needed and they don't want to fix them before escrow, let it go to a contractor or someone who has such workers in the family or who can get it done for reasonable, and let it go to them ( another buyer).

    Quit the haggling over the door knobs, hinges on the cupboards, re-painting the deck…'s a numbers crunching exercise. Get some estimates from professionals, factor it into the equation and go on. Buy it "as is" and fix it yourself or have someone YOU trust do the work. Or don't.

  14. Dan Evans, Sky Island Inspections, Cochise AZ says

    Thank you Bill for introducing and covering this topic.

    I find two of your thoughts most enlightening, and wish more home sellers (and listing agents) understood them:
    In your Feb 4th 2014 reply: “All home inspectors should find every defect there is with a home after all that is their job.


    In your 25 Oct 2014 reply: “The segment of the population that knows how to prepare for a home inspection and carefully takes the time to rectify issues always comes out ahead in the long run.”

    Given both of the above, I wonder why you did not give the following advice to sellers:
    “Get your home inspected when you first consider selling your home. It will let you see your home through the eyes of a home inspector, and ultimately, buyers. Getting ahead of the curve allows your listing agent to advise you on:
    – your listing price, and how much you should budget for closing credits;
    – what you’re not going to fix, why, and how to handle that with buyers; and
    – what needs to be fixed before the home is listed;
    The latter item giving you time to fix it yourself (if you can) or time to shop around for competent repair companies and reasonable prices.

  15. says

    Bill, I wish I would have found your site in the beginning of our selling process and gotten a pre listing inspection as you recommended. We had our home inspection recently with the buyer and agent present, they are both real estate agents. We have tried to take extra care of our home over the years. We lowered the asking price of our home twice to sell “AS IS” to cover the needed repairs. The inspectors found problems but nothing major and only minor safety problems. Is it normal for the 2 agents to try to get us to negotiate a lower the price again to cover these issues found by the home inspector? I am so stressed, I would appreciate any advice on my options.

    • says

      Willy, it is not uncommon at all for a buyer to try to renegotiate a sale after a home inspection. Whether or not you should agree to a reduction in sale price really depends on how serious electrical issues are and whether or not another buyer would have the same concerns. Sometimes you are better off giving the buyer a few hundred dollars if that is all it takes to keep the transaction moving forward. Use your better judgement when it comes to negotiating home inspection issues.

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